Genetic pleiotropy between asthma and obesity in a community-based sample of twins

Hallstrand TS, Fischer ME, Wurfel MM, Afari N, Buchwald D, Goldberg J

Asthma and obesity are common conditions that are strongly associated. This association might be due to shared genetic or environmental causes. We sought to determine whether a shared genetic cause is responsible for the association between asthma and obesity and to estimate the magnitude of shared genetic cause. The analyses were performed with 1001 monozygotic and 383 dizygotic same-sex twin pairs within the University of Washington Twin Registry. The presence of asthma was determined by self-report of a physician diagnosis of asthma, and body mass index (BMI) was calculated by using self-reported height and weight. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. The association between asthma and BMI was assessed by means of mixed-effects ordinal regression. Twin correlations examined the association of asthma and obesity. Univariate and bivariate structural equation models estimated the components of variance attributable to genetic and environmental effects. A strong association between asthma and BMI was identified in the sample population (P< .001). Substantial heritability was detected for asthma (53%) and obesity (77%), which is indicative of additive genetic influences on each disorder. The best-fitting model of shared components of variance indicated that 8% of the genetic component of obesity is shared with asthma. The covariation between obesity and asthma is predominantly caused by shared genetic risk factors for both conditions.

Genetic pleiotropy between asthma and obesity in a community-based sample of twins. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 Dec; 116(6):1235-1241.